Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points in his return to Salt Lake City as the Detroit Pistons defeated the Utah Jazz, 125-116. The Pistons were the team that appeared fresh despite playing in the second game of a back-to-back and fifth straight game on the road.
Utah kept within striking distance for most of the way, but when the rubber met the road, the Jazz couldn’t close the gap in a contest that the oddsmakers had them pegged as an 11-point favorite.
What did we learn from Utah’s underwhelming performance? Let’s break it down.
Jazz Lacking Rim Protection
The Pistons had their way with Utah’s defense all night. The one glaring weakness that continues to rear its ugly head in Salt Lake City is a lack of rim protection and a presence in the paint.
When the Jazz made their runs, the Pistons responded with easy looks near the rim. Utah's defensive rating for the game was a dismal 131.6, which ranked last in the 12 NBA games played on Wednesday.
Jazz are Winless Since Mike Conley's Injury
Utah’s veteran point guard has been sorely missed since going out with a knee injury against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Jazz appeared to be discombobulated in their half-court sets in spurts, and not having a true point guard on the floor is taking its toll.
It will be a minimum of six more games before Conley will be back in uniform.
Malik Beasley Continues to Stand Out
Earlier in the day, it was reported by Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer that Utah was planning on keeping Jordan Clarkson and Lauri Markkanen out of future trade talks. If there's another player that's entering the conversation of untouchables, it's Beasley.
The sharpshooter acquired in the Rudy Gobert trade scored 29 points while knocking down eight three-pointers at a 53% clip. He's averaging 14.9 ppg on a career-high 43% from long distance for the year. It might be time to start talking about an extension.
18 is the Magic Number for Markkanen
When Markkanen scores fewer than 18 points, the Jazz are 1-7 this year. On the flip side, when the 7-footer scores 18 or more points, Utah is 11-1.
We’ll see how this trend plays out, but for now, as Markkanen goes, so goes the Jazz. Markkanen is averaging 22.3 ppg on the year, and, despite a season-low of 13 points against the Pistons, he's still Utah’s most important piece in its rebuild moving forward.